If you have ever been to NYC’s Italian restaurant Carbone then you have definitely had their famous spicy rigatoni. You can’t make the trip without ordering it. At Carbone, the house-made rigatoni is tossed in a chunky, spicy bright orange sauce the color of the Hermés logo; and it tastes just as luxurious.
While some refer to it as a spicy vodka sauce, it’s more than that! (Plus the Carbone spicy rigatoni recipe doesn’t actually use vodka in their sauce). It’s different than other vodka sauces that I’ve had and is definitely spicier. I would describe it as a creamy arrabbiata sauce. After trying the dish at the restaurant I knew that I had to find a way to recreate a similar version of the recipe to satiate my carb cravings.
Restaurant’s like Los Angeles hot spot Jon + Vinny’s have a similar spicy fusili pasta where a similar sauce is served pureed until smooth before it’s tossed with the pasta.
Pro tip: you can have them add burrata to theirs! Try it at home with this recipe.
My personal mission was to create a comparable dupe sauce to the one I found myself craving. The base of the sauce is an onion soubise, an easy, three-ingredient French sauce. The onions are cooked over a long period of time at a low heat until they become tender and flavorful. Onion soubise is classically puréed with cream as an accompaniment to meat such as a seared steak or roast chicken.
The goal isn’t to put color on the onions but to coax out the flavor so don’t try to rush it. I know an hour and a half seems like a long time but it’s not an error. It takes time for the onions to break down! Make the onion mixture a few days ahead of time and reheat when needed in order to minimize the day of prep.
Heat a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the butter, ½ cup of water and the onions to the pan. Continue to simmer the onions over low heat, stirring occasionally, until they are tender, about 1½ hours. Season with salt then set aside and let cool.
In a large pot over medium heat add the olive oil and heat through. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, just a few seconds.
Add the tomato paste, the tomatoes and sugar, stirring to combine. Let simmer for 15 minutes, breaking up any large pieces of tomato with the back of the spoon. Season to taste with salt.
Add the onion mixture to the pot and stir to combine then whisk in the cream, chili paste and chili flakes.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add the salt and bring back to the boil. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente, about 8 minutes. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water then drain, and return the pasta to the pot.
Ladle the sauce over the top and toss to combine, cooking for an additional minute. If the sauce is too thick, add the pasta water 2 tablespoons at a time to thin the sauce.
Serve the spicy rigatoni hot in warmed pasta bowls with grated Parmesan cheese (optional).
While they are becoming more widely available (Trader Joe’s Bomba sauce is a good substitute) if you can’t track down Calabrian chili paste then I’d recommend finely chopping fire roasted red peppers and stirring them together with crushed red pepper flakes to form a paste. It won’t have the exact same flavor but it will do in a pinch.
If you can’t find calabrian chili paste at your local store I’d recommend ordering a jar from Williams Sonoma or Amazon. If you can only find whole jarred Calabrian chilies, simply remove the stems and finely chop them.
Yes! Slowly cooking them coaxes out the subtle, sweet onion flavor and turns it into a buttery, jam-like consistency. It mellows the harsh flavor of onions. You don’t want caramelized onions for this.
No! You want this sauce to bind to the noodles – this is aided by the addition of the pasta water. Adding oil when cooking the noodles will make them slippery and the sauce won’t stick as well.
Vodka sauce such as this one here don’t typically have whole tomatoes, the base of the sauce is just tomato paste and cream flavored by shallots, a touch of vodka and red pepper. This creamy arrabbiata sauce (spicy tomato sauce) gets it’s flavor from the slowly simmered onions while the spice comes from the Calabrian chilies and red pepper flakes.
Yes! If you like a creamier, silky sauce, then throw all or half the sauce into the blender. This will make the sauce be more similar to the famed pasta dish from Jon & Vinny’s in Los Angeles.
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